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Romney's Divide and Conquer Strategy

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney address supporters with his wife Ann and their sons behind him during a Romney for President Iowa Caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

January 9, 2012

A new national Pew Research Center survey on the GOP presidential race underscores the basic dynamic that has placed Mitt Romney in a commanding position, despite attracting only a relatively tepid level of overall support.

For Romney, the name of the game remains divide and conquer. He leads in the Pew poll because he is consolidating the more pragmatic and secular components of the party more than any single one of his rivals is consolidating voters who are more ideological or socially conservative. Romney isn't sweeping the center -- but he is holding just enough of it to maintain a modest but steady advantage over the crowded roster of candidates appealing primarily to the fragmenting right.

Overall, the survey, which polled 1,507 adults, including 549 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, from January 4 to 8, showed Romney leading with a modest 27 percent, ahead of both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich at 16 percent, and Ron Paul at 12 percent. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman lagged in single digits.

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